The work of the railroad pioneers in America became the basis for a great surge of railroad building halfway through the nineteenth century that linked the nation together as never before. Railroads eventually became the nation’s number one transportation system, and remained so until the construction of the interstate highway system halfway through the twentieth century. They were of crucial importance in stimulating economic expansion, but their influence reached beyond the economy and was pervasive in American society at large.
By 1804, English as well as American inventors had experimented with steam engines for moving land vehicles. In 1920, John Stevens ran a locomotive and cars around in a circular track on his New Jersey estate, which the public saw as an amusing toy. And in 1825, after opening a short length of track, the Stockton to Darlington Railroad in England became the first line to carry general traffic. American businesspeople, especially those in the Atlantic coastal region who looked for better communication with the West, quickly became interested in the English experiment. The first company in America to begin actual operations was the Baltimore and Ohio, which opened a thirteen- mile length of track in 1830. It used a team of horses to pull a train of passenger carriages and freight wagons along the track. Steam locomotive power didn’t come into regular service until two years later.
However, for the first decade or more, there was not yet a true railroad system. Even the longest of the lines was relatively short in the 1830’s, and most of them served simply to connect water routes to each other, not to link one railroad to another. Even when two lines did connect, the tracks often differed in width, so cars from one line couldn’t fit onto tracks of the next line. Schedules were unreliable and wrecks were frequent. Significantly, however, some important developments during the 1830’s and 1840’s included the introduction of heavier iron rails, more flexible and powerful locomotives, and passenger cars were redesigned to become more stable, comfortable, and larger. By the end of 1830 only 23 miles of track had been laid in the country. But by 1936, more than 1,000 miles of track had been laid in eleven States, and within the decade, almost 3,000 miles had been constructed. By that early age, the United States had already surpassed Great Britain in railroad construction, and particularly from the mid-1860’s, the late nineteenth century belonged to the railroads.
1 The word “stimulating” in line 5 is closest in meaning to
(a) helping (b) changing (c) promoting (d) influencing
2 The word “their” in line 6 refers to
(a) railroad pioneers (b) railroads (c) the interstate highway system (d) American society
3 Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?
(a) The United States regarded Great Britain as a competitor in developing the most efficient railroad system
(b) Steam locomotive power was first used in 1832
(c) American businessmen saw railroads as a threat to established businesses
(d) Steam locomotives replaced horses because of the distances across the country The author concludes that for the first decade or more, there was not yet a true railroad system because
(a) passenger cars were not stable, comfortable or large
(b) locomotives were not powerful enough
(c) schedules were unreliable and wrecks were frequent
(d) lines were relatively short and not usually linked
5 The word “schedules” in line 23 is closest in meaning to:
(a) safety procedures (b) employees (c) timetables (d) railroad tracks
6 Which of the following is NOT true about the 1830’s and 1840’s (line 24)
(a) passenger cars became larger
(b) schedules were reliable
(c) locomotives became more powerful
(d) tracks were heavier
7 The word “stable” in line 26 is closest in meaning to
(a) fixed (b) supportive (c) reliable (d) sound
8 By what time had almost 3,000 miles of track been laid?
(a) 1830 (b) 1836 (c) 1840 (d) mid-1860s
9 The word “surpassed” in line29 is closest in meaning to
(a) exceeded (b) beaten (c) overtaken (d) equaled
10 Where in the passage does the author outline the main conclusions about the importance of railroads in America?
(a) Lines 3-7 (b) Lines 14-18 (c) Lines 19-21 (d) Lines 29-31
11 Why does the author include details about Great Britain in the passage?
(a) To compare developments in both the United States and Great Britain
(b) To illustrate the competitiveness between the two countries
(c) To show where Americans got their ideas and technology from
(d)To provide a more complete historical context